Index of tables
Legal market overview
Despite a 3% annual growth forecast for the Macedonian economy from 2015-18, as well as government efforts to stimulate foreign direct investment with tax incentives and foreign investment zones, the majority of commercial lawyers report that the reality is an extremely flat market. Most law firms are keeping busy by servicing existing clients, but transactions remain sparse. Firms at the top end of the market are faring slightly better, handling occasional company sell-offs or mergers, while a great deal of debt recovery work is being undertaken. A few major projects remain in the pipeline, particularly in the renewable energy sector, but have stalled due to political and financial obstacles.
As a result, there are no global law firms in the country and even the Austria-based regional firms, so dominant across Central and Southeastern Europe, are absent. Serbia-originated CEE regional firm Karanovic & Nikolic is the only foreign firm in the jurisdiction.
Polenak Law Firm ‘really understands the needs of international investors’, and stands out for its proven track record in landmark transactions, including privatisations, aviation and competition matters; it reports an uptick in recent instructions, including financing and telecoms work. It advised on the merger of a fixed line operator with the country’s third-largest mobile network, and regularly acts for Deutsche Telekom. Its impressive and unrivalled client base includes Philip Morris, VISA, Cisco, Johnson Matthey, Marriott and Gazprom Marketing and Trading, while a high proportion of instructions come from leading international law firms requiring Macedonian legal advice. Managing partner Kristijan Polenak leads the 13-lawyer team, which includes leading individual Tatjana Popovski Buloski.
The well-respected Cakmakova Advocates is a full-service law firm with an impressive client roster of international companies such as Telekom Austria, UniCredit Bulbank and Hungary’s MVM Partner Energy Trading Ltd. The firm notably advised Visteon on its 100% share buyout of the automotive electronics business of Johnson Controls Macedonia. Managing partner Biljana Cakmakova has almost 40 years’ experience and is well known. Fellow partners Vesna Gavriloska and Olivera Grozdanovska are recommended.
Debarliev, Dameski & Kelesoska Attorneys at Law is a large firm that predominantly acts for foreign entities and is noted for its experience in greenfield investment, state aid and trade development zone matters, as well as financial services, pharmaceuticals and telecoms. Name partners Ivan Debarliev, Dragan Dameski and Emilija Kelesoska Sholjakovska are recommended for business matters, whereas Snezhana Doneva specialises in litigation. Recent mandates include advising Van Hool Macedonia on a €13m greenfield investment, including the construction of a factory in the technological industrial zone. Other clients include the Macedonian Bank for Development Promotion, Raiffeisen Bank Albania, Cineplexx MKD, and Germany-based PCC Hydro.
Law Firm Knezovic & Associates’ ‘accomplished’ team often wins roles on major transactions: it is acting for the government of Macedonia in the long-awaited PPP to build a hydropower plant in Cebren and is advising Novomatic Group on its acquisition of Casino FlaminGo hotel and casino resort. Other clients include BAT, ArcelorMittal, Coca-Cola and Heineken. Name partner Dejan Knezovic heads the practice.
Lawyers Antevski is one of the few firms in the jurisdiction with foreign offices, its network covering Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany. Zlatko Antevski heads a nine-lawyer team in Skopje that is busy with debt recovery work on behalf of foreign and local companies and banks. Clients include Dralon GmbH, which the firm is advising on a €65m claim against debtor Teteks Yarn in bankruptcy; Finland’s UPM – Kymmene Seven Seas, which it is assisting with an €18m claim for debts owed by MediaPrint Makedonija; and Sberbank AD Belgrade, for which it is acting on the sale of aircraft owned by MAT Airways Dooel in bankruptcy, a mortgagee of Sberbank. Robert Bosch Bulgaria and Betty Barclay Germany are also clients.
Georgi Dimitrov Attorneys is particularly well regarded for labour law and general litigation, but also handles corporate and commercial law, as well as some major projects. Current instructions include acting in an IP dispute on behalf of a global publishing company and representing an international restaurant chain in a franchise dispute. Clients range from leading domestic companies to multinationals, such as Makedonski Telekom, ProCredit Bank Macedonia, Samsung and Phillips. Georgi Dimitrov and Katarina Ginoska are the names to note.
Regional firm Karanovic & Nikolic has ‘a dynamic and very responsive team’ in Macedonia, which is ‘co-ordinated well internally and shows good legal and industry knowledge’. The firm advised on the Macedonian aspects of key regional deals, such as acting for Agrokor on its acquisition of retail chain Mercator, and representing Mid Europa Partners on the sale of SBB/Telemach to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Locally, clients include Mars, Merck Sharp & Dohme, and Diageo. Senior associate Leonid Ristev ‘focuses on delivering a good service on time’.
Monevski Law Firm’s name partner Valerjan Monevski is a respected local practitioner who is instructed on some major projects. The team acted for Germany-based chemicals group PCC Hydro on its tender to build a new plant. The firm regularly advises electricity trading and consultancy group GEN – I Slovenia on electricity and gas projects in Macedonia, and assists US tobacco supplier Alliance One International with all legal issues in the jurisdiction. The firm is also well regarded for its courtroom skills.
Advokatska kancelarija Pepeljugoski is a full-service firm with outstanding strength in intellectual property. It advises Microsoft on IP protection and handles IP portfolio management for Bacardi. In other areas of practice, highlights included assisting ONE Telecommunication Services, a member of Telekom Slovenia Group, with debt collection, competition and antitrust issues. It also advised Makedonski Telekom AD Skopje on a possible merger. Managing partner Valentin Pepeljugoski and senior partner Aleksandar Trajkovski are the key individuals.
With over 20 years in the market, Trpenoski Law Firm has cultivated a stable, reputable practice that attracts an impressive client following, particularly among local banks and financial institutions. Clients include the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia, Stopanska Banka AD and regional financial consultancy EOS Matrix. From other sectors, clients include mobile operator ONE Telecommunications Services DOO and food processing company, Zito Luks AD. Natasha Trpenoska Trenchevska heads the 18-strong team.
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